book cover design tips for beginners

Nailing Your Book Cover Design (Tips And Tricks)

Should you wait until you finish self editing your first draft to tackle book cover design? The simple answer is “No”.


There are tons of articles on the internet aiming to teach you how to publish your book with zero investment. Possible? Yes. Complete bullshit? Without a doubt.


You wouldn’t try building your own fridge or knitting your own wedding dress if you weren’t an expert, would you? Well, same goes for the book cover design of your novel.


For the ones of you who are new to my blog, I’m Esther, writer, content creator for authors and massive nerd. If you’re interested to know all the tips & tricks surrounding the process From Writing To Publishing Your Novel, you’re only a click away. For writing and marketing tips consider subscribing to my YouTube Channel.


If you’re new to the writing industry, there’s no way you can nail every trick in the book without making mistakes. Avoiding these newbie mistakes is a way to establish yourself as a serious writer and make readers and other authors in the industry take you seriously.


I personally chose to focus on book cover design on one of my breaks between the fourth and fifth round of editing, when my brain just couldn’t focus on the novel any longer. It gave me perspective and a chance to detach and then return to the novel with a fresh pair of eyes.


So, book cover design… scary, right? Damn right, especially when swimming in unknown waters.


At the beginning of this journey, you didn’t even know if you could write your first novel, and now you find yourself surrounded by the great unknown. Don’t fret, by all means, do not fret!


Research, research, research




Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can use to your advantage, independently if you choose to design your own book cover or hire a professional.


Did you know book covers also follow trends? Make sure to google some of the trends in your genre.


2017 was the year of the pink book.


In 2018 however, we’ve seen all-caps typography, exuberant backgrounds and bold colors and patterns.


2019 will be bolder than ever, duotone graphics, hand drawn illustrations, electric colors. Millennials and Gen Z are leaving no stone unturned on their quest to experiment with all the innovative effects that will keep their individuality intact. Characters on covers will still remain popular and we’ll notice a slight increase in homemade book covers.


An attractive design catches the eye enough to make you grab that book and turn it around to check the blurb. Speaking of, have a look at the guidelines regarding How To Write The Perfect Blurb.


If it’s romance, make sure the cover screams it, if it’s a recipe book, by all means, let us see that! Yes my friend, not fair, but after all your hard work it’s your cover and your blurb that are going to become the selling features of your sweat and tears.



You Now Have A Clear Idea Of Your Story, So:



  • Sharpen your pencil and write down some key elements that you think should be on your cover
  • Google book covers of your genre
  • Watch YouTube tutorials, read, get informed



Everything else has to happen after you’ve done your homework on what a cover in your genre should look like.


Can I Make My Own Book Cover?



Yes! If you know what you’re doing and the end result is (very) far from the homemade look.


There’s no better way than teaching by example, so here are some DOs and DON’Ts regarding book cover design.


Do take into consideration that this is only my personal opinion. Having plenty of graphic designer and illustrator friends also helped – when you’re around them so much, you learn without actually setting your mind to it.


What does this cover actually tell me?
It’s a book with and about girls at the beach. Judging by what’s written in the dot and the firm behind, I understand the main character is called Angel, but she’s no angel, and she must be a young adult 20-21, living the adventure of a lifetime at the beach. What if I’m only seeing a thumbnail scrolling down on Amazon, and I don’t get to read what’s in the dot? I might as well think it’s either a novel or a book on proper tanning.
This book cover doesn’t give me a clear idea if the novel is YA or NA.
Bottom line, it did not spike my curiosity to read the blurb.


Now this cover tells me a story. Even from the Amazon thumbnail, I can see it’s a YA novel. The title screams young romance, the font is feminine and the image of a teenage girl sprawled on her bed caught in her daydream slumber is truly relatable.






































Let’s talk suspense! How can we, when my eyes are bleeding at the sight of this homemade horror show? You know what’s funny? The novel could be a real masterpiece, yet the first thought that crosses your mind is probably “if the book cover’s this bad, the content has to match”. Nothing further from the truth, but this is a “hot case” of a very bad first impression.


It’s color coordinated, it gives us a clue on setting and characters, just enough to create the necessary curiosity to give the blurb a chance. The title is clean, bold, captivating. Thumbs up!

































Shall I start with the oversized menacing feline with awkward teeth, or the animated character who wants to defeat it with a stick? This book cover presents no less than five characters, each in a different digital style, all entirely incompatible. Instead of making something, anything pop, it all becomes a brown wish-wash. Joining multiple styles together defeats the sense of unity, the artistic flow of the book cover. It’s not necessary to add multiple elements, don’t get greedy.


It’s not a joke that fiction book covers are appealing to the heart. Look at all the symmetry in color, details, font. It’s dark, it’s golden and it’s luring you in with all the “sexy” it can gather.


































If you know your way around Photoshop or the likes, you can give it a shot, taking this warm advice into consideration:



  • Be faithful to your genre. If your cover doesn’t say it, your target readers are likely to move on to the next best thing.
  • Don’t overcrowd your cover with multiple elements of your story. It works the same way when you’re decorating a home, too many centerpieces tell the wrong story. Less is more.
  • For fiction, create impact.
  • Pay close attention to fonts and effects, as they also tend to go hand in hand with your genre.




You see what I mean, right?


There’s no question the biggest untruth in this industry is “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.


By now you probably googled “how to create your own book cover from scratch” or “how to use Photoshop or GIMP to create a book cover”.


For everyone’s sake, learning how to use Photoshop at this stage is a complete waste of time.


However, if you still want to hold on to that penny, here are some websites that can help you with your book cover design:



  • Canva offers ready-to-use templates, stock photos and all the required skill is drag & drop, so that’s pretty tempting for someone who is just starting out in the industry. Over five million users back them up and recommend their product.
  • Placeit is quick, easy and user-friendly, no need to be software proficient and they also offer plenty of templates.




Get Savvy Or Get A Designer



There’s undeniable dignity in admitting we’re not experts in every field, so don’t compromise your sales by trying to save that buck (or penny).


The ugly truth however, is that a professional cover can cost up to 2000$/€/£ depending on many, many factors. Simple text on color covers are the cheapest, but as it happens they rarely work for fiction.


Fiction book covers need that “va-va-voom” factor that only a connoisseur can bring. If you’re only starting out, start smart.


How To Explain Your Ideas To A Book Cover Designer



Don’t approach a graphic designer when you don’t have a clue. Try to envision your cover, think whether you want it static or dynamic, all these details are imperative.



  • Ask your designer for both paperback and ebook covers if you’re planning on publishing in both formats (design wise, they are different)
  • Think about a color combination for your cover
  • If you want characters on your book cover, don’t expect the designer to know beforehand how they look like, search or other stock pic websites for similar looking people and poses (fighting, romantic pose, lost in thought, etc.)
  • If you want an anime cover/picture/painted cover
  • Special effects (thunder, magic, wind, snow, etc.)


The one thing you shouldn’t worry yourself with is the font. Trust the designer to make recommendations once the cover is ready and not beforehand.


Based on this submission, your graphic designer can properly offer you a budget. Asking a designer for a quotation before talking details is like going into a bridal shop asking how much is a wedding dress. That simple (also, why do I keep referencing wedding dresses?!)


If you agree on a budget, now it’s time to play tennis. The designer will send you a proposal, you’ll send it back with your notes, and just like that, back and forth until you get that perfect result. It’s also important to trust your designer, they know what readers go for.


TIP: Don’t be afraid to tell your designer you don’t like a proposal. They know a cover is a matter of taste, and it’s their job to meet your expectations, they’re used to that.


NOTE: That doesn’t mean you should be rude or it should take more than twenty-five rounds of back and forth (on average).


Don’t fret if the book title and author title are two very different fonts, this is actually the most popular option nowadays.


A professional established designer is likely to charge you starting 900$ for a fiction cover, but much like a tailor, they will need all your input to reach perfection and communication is key.


I’ve worked with Ana on author branding and her advice has been invaluable. Check her website here.



Hiring A Book Cover Designer Through A Platform





When you are at the beginning of your journey, you want to play it smart. Not investing in the quality of your project is the worst of decisions.


Investing too much without a guarantee it’s actually going to appeal readers is second worst, so the key is finding your comfortable balance from writing to publishing your manuscript.


My choice was going with 99designs for my first book cover design. Here you can read everything about My Experience Working With Designers On 99designs and see the book cover submissions I received from designers.


99designs is a platform where you submit your ideas involving the cover design of your manuscript and get multiple offers from book cover designers for around 300$.


It’s free to sign up, it detects the country you’re in and automatically sets the language (this can prove a bit unfortunate if, like me, you get the bright idea to sign up while you’re in a foreign country), it’s a very intuitive platform which meets supply and demand.


So, you only pay once and you can receive a hefty number of book cover designs based on your ideas, from beginner, intermediate and expert designers alike. The designers who have submitted their proposals can make as many modifications as you’d like and they work fast because they only have a few days to convince you.


TIP: When you sign up on 99designs, you have the option of selecting the format you wish (ebook, paperback or both). I only selected paperback and had the pleasure to see my chosen designer had included the ebook version for the same price.


TIP: From my experience, only an intermediate level designer can actually get a decent cover done. For now, if you choose this option, remember to be clear and polite, all these designers are in a race to convince you, the author, to give them a chance.


Long story short, I was not disappointed with my first book cover design experience and I’ve learned so much in the process.


It’s going to serve me right once I tackle my next project, so I am quite excited.


I wish you all healthy brainwaves for all the challenges to come. For more juicy content, please consider signing up to my very sporadic newsletter and let’s keep in touch!


Are you in the Writing Industry?

Shoot me an email, I’d love to interview you!



And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.



She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills. 


Read the full blurb here.